Advertising has moved away from traditional media to unconventional forms of engagement. While some believe that technology is key in this new era of communication, I believe that the idea is still king. Technology is just a tool and digital media merely a platform for creative expression.
Young creatives tend to link innovative ideas to technology. But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are many forms of innovation in our creative communications, and use of technology is just one of them. If you create a breakthrough idea that extends the limits of its intended media, that is innovation—be it a press ad, a banner, or radio ad.
If a communication idea that plays with cool technology doesn’t capture our emotions, it will not stay long in our hearts. After all, consumers are human beings with emotions.
Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes
Advertising agencies have been generating ideas based on consumer insight, and executing these ideas via targeted media, for decades. Has that changed? Not really. We are still doing that, but with more focus on digital media. We can’t deny that technology has been evolving and has become deeply immersed in people’s lives, changing their media consumption habits over the years. But the most effective campaigns are still communicated to people based on consumer insights.
At Hakuhodo, we don’t just see people as consumers; we see them as fully rounded individuals with their own lifestyles, hobbies, aspirations, and dreams. We have a term for them: “sei-katsu-sha” (literally “person with a life”). Sei-katsu-sha do more than just shop. They are workers, residents, citizens, somebody’s son or daughter, and, perhaps, also a parent. We don’t push them to buy our clients’ products, but make their products or brands engage with them in their lives, or improve their lives via innovative execution.
Don’t rely too much on technology in idea execution
As already mentioned, some young creatives tend to link innovative ideas to technology. However, it always depends on the environment, especially in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia where support for developing innovative technology is low. To be honest, most technologies in Southeast Asia were invented in the West or in advanced Asian countries like Japan and Korea. Since we lack self-invented technologies and support, we must find creative ways to make use of the existing technologies we have, like online social media.
Just last year, Hakuhodo Indonesia developed a crowdsourcing campaign for the NGO Cleanaction. We knew that Indonesia has the third most Pinterest users in the world. They love to find their interests on Pinterest and share them with the world. We injected our idea onto Pinterest, making users find and share our interest—rivers of trash. The campaign did not just disrupt consumers on their favourite digital media, it engaged with them through unexpected creative execution. With limited tech support and budget, we played with existing media without modifying its features and achieved the best results out of it.
From this, I came to believe that we can use strong insights and ideas to engage with consumers whether or not the communication will be executed with high-end technology.
Are ad agencies threatened by technology disruption?
Yes, to certain extent. Media commissions have been slashed due to the shift in client media spent. Undeniably, today’s technology is progressing at rocket speed and many jobs such as translator, receptionist, headhunter, taxi driver, librarian, travel agent and more will disappear sooner or later. In fact, this is already happening in highly developed cities in Asia such as Singapore, and in Japan. Fortunately, technology cannot replace creativity. Technology can’t help an ad agency create creative communication or insightful strategy. Those who still believe in ideation rule; they will survive. As for now, the score is Technology: 0, “Ideaology”: 1.
Chow Kok Keong is ECD of Hakuhodo Indonesia